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School closure has big knock-on effect

Sir, – The planned closure of the Ambridge school is a real-life
situation, which has faced so many people in rural areas all over the
country – and the effect goes far beyond its immediate community.

I recently looked at the wide-reaching consequences of the closure of
the primary school in my own village of Freckenham in north Suffolk.
They were:

* A longer journey to school. In a village of 140 homes, primary
school children now go to six different schools up to 20 miles
away, only one has a bus service. Inevitably parents will take
their children and even allowing for car sharing, this has
resulted in:
* A huge increase in private car travel – well in excess of 2,000
road miles per week, for a tiny village an unproductive and
frustrating use of parents’ time.
* The economic costs to the people of this tiny village are vast –
in motor costs alone (forget time) about £800 per week or £27,000
per year.
* Costs to the taxpayer for increased road use, policing, hospital
services.
* Environmental costs of energy use and pollution.
* Time lost in traffic jams for all, resulting from extra cars on
the road.
* Social cost – children and parents are taken out of their home
village. Friendships are built around their peers at school.
Socialising will involve journeys of up to 40 miles away.
* Local economy – parents will inevitably shop elsewhere, while
passing the supermarket, rather than supporting the village shop.
* Health costs – travelling by car or bus, children do not get vital
physical exercise.

The school was closed “to save money and provide better centralised
services” – a decision taken by one body – the local education authority
– focusing solely on one required aim without any regard to anything
else. Potentially it could hasten the destruction of an entire community.

I do not blame the LEA in this; they were not required to look at the
wider picture, but it is just one example of the result when decisions
are taken in isolation and where no ordered appraisal is undertaken.

There are lessons here for every facet of our lives – and for our
Government which is continually telling us about its “joined-up” nature.
The recent Rural White Paper makes many promises in this respect; the
Government must now practice what it preaches.

NICHOLAS WOOLLEY, Freckenham, Bury St Edmunds

East Anglian Daily Times | February 27, 2001

February 27th, 2001
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